News / Middle East

    Syria Talks End With No Breakthrough

    UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a stakeout following a meeting with top US and Russian officials on the Syrian conflict at the United Nations office in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
    UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a stakeout following a meeting with top US and Russian officials on the Syrian conflict at the United Nations office in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
    Lisa SchleinEdward Yeranian
    International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says talks with senior U.S. and Russian officials in Geneva ended Friday without a breakthrough about how to end the civil war in Syria.

    Brahimi held closed-door talks Friday at United Nations' European headquarters in Switzerland with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

    The discussions focused on the implementation of a plan for ending the war, which was proposed by the Action Group for Syria in June.

    The plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and for the establishment of a transitional government that could include officials serving under President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups.  

    Afterwards, Brahimi told reporters all sides underscored the need for a political solution to the crisis.  But he acknowledged that resolving the crisis in the near future is not likely.

    "If you are asking me whether a solution is around the corner, I'm not sure that is the case," he said. "What I am certain of, is that it is, there is an absolute necessity for people to continue to work for such a peaceful solution."

    • Demonstrators hold banners during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Friday prayers in Kafranbel, near Idlib, Syria, January 11, 2013 in this picture provided by Shaam News Network.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter uses binoculars near the Menagh military airport, in Aleppo's countryside, Syria, January 10, 2013.
    • A damaged car and buildings covered with snow are seen in the Jouret al Shayah area of Homs, Syria, January 10, 2013.
    • Residents evacuate their houses after being targeted by missiles fired by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 9, 2013.
    • Children sit next to a fire in Aleppo city, Syria, January 9, 2013.
    • Civilians and Free Syrian Army fighters gather at a site hit by a missile in Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 7, 2013.
    • People help a wounded person after a missile hit Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 7, 2013.
    • This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waving to his supporters after speaking at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters, wounded during the battle to capture Taftanaz air base, receive treatment at a field hospital in northern Idlib, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter feeds a cat in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • A man rides his bicycle past buildings damaged by shelling in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 6, 2013.
    • A family crosses a street piled with garbage in Aleppo, Syria, January 5, 2013.

    Rebels claim gains

    Friday's meeting comes as rebels reportedly seized a key Syrian military air base after several days of fighting.

    Rebel fighters stormed the government compound at Taftanaz helicopter base in Idlib province. Arab media reported that rebels later evacuated the building after government artillery hit the base from a nearby town.

    A rebel commander told Al Arabiya TV that five rebel brigades took part in capturing the base and received help from fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. The commander said dozens of government soldiers were captured, along with tanks, armored vehicles and boxes of munitions.

    The Syrian government has not responded to the claims.

    Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said a number of other government airports and military bases are now under rebel siege.

    "The Taftanaz airport is the second largest helicopter base in the country," he said. "This is a huge base and the rebels persistently besieged it and now managed to over-run it, and these rebels have also besieged about four other airports, and other bases are under attack."

    Aleppo offensive

    Witnesses also said that government forces mounted an offensive in the center of Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, in a bid to break out of a rebel siege.  Government soldiers continue to hold the historic Aleppo citadel and swathes of territory to the east and south of the city.

    Rebel commanders in Damascus say that an explosion targeted a convoy carrying top military officials from a security meeting Friday at the presidential palace.  They said that the Iranian ambassador, several Hezbollah commanders and four Russian generals were in that convoy.

    There was no government confirmation of the report.

    Government forces have been trying to extract rebels from around the capital in recent days, but successes have been limited.

    Analyst Kahwaji says the rebels have been making slow, but steady progress.

    "It's not a stalemate, because the rebels are making gains," he said. "It's slow progress, but it seems to be a steady progress."

    Regime still strong
     
    But analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said the Assad regime still has significant assets, including firepower and strategic tactical positions, which will make any rebel advance long and painful.

    "It's quite obvious that the regime is being forced into a fighting retreat, but it remains a more potent enemy than the opposition or commentators abroad want to make of it," he said. "The regime has massive military assets in Damascus, is in control of a large and defensible area on the heights above the capital and also has significant social bases in that part of the country.”

    Harling said that rebel forces have “failed to completely uproot the regime” from northern strongholds and he predicts the battle for the capital will be a “challenge” in the months to come.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Michael from: USA
    January 12, 2013 8:52 AM
    Brahimi's peace plan for Syria extends to the breaking point the ability to imagine a 'new' Syria which would require Syria to be a thing. If it is a thing, then it can be perfected by negating all evil deeds done against it, but until we give up this idea, there can be no peace system that doesn't allow raw nature to set the agenda

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    January 11, 2013 4:28 PM
    It is very sad that a transitional agreement, leading to a cease fire has not being brokered. The plight of the civilians must be absolutely horrendous. It is also extremely terrible to see a Turkish army, and their usually granstanding PM, with one of the largest armies in the world, doing nothing to push through humanitarian corridors to help the civilians; and nothing to say about some the best armed/trained Muslim forces in the Gulf, they too should sart making safe humanitarian corridors, with their best equiped Air Forces in the world... I guess everyone is expecting the US/NATO to do the humanitarian relief preparatory/support work...as usual.

    by: UsmcJimdaddy E Davis Isst
    January 11, 2013 10:10 AM
    Syrian rebels have mein blessing as they fight for their lives and for their freedom.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    January 12, 2013 12:28 AM
    Mine too... Their hard work and dedication to their country will prevail. I just hope justice is properly served to Bashar al Assad, hate to hear he kills himself once surrounded.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.